Short talk on providing comfort
As a kid who watched a lot of movies and read a lot of books, my lived experiences often lagged behind my imagined ones. Whenever I had a new experience, it would be compared to a slurry of European art house films, pulpy science fiction and the spate of 80s teenage sex comedies set in my neighborhood. This is like that movie, I would often say to myself or others, whether or not the comparison was terribly apt. Once, after high school, I was invited to help host a birthday party for an acquaintance of mine. His recently widowed father latched on to me for reasons unknown, besides the fact that we were neighbors and that his son and I had been good friends circa kindergarten. When I arrived at the park district cabin the father rented at the edge of town, I immediately sensed the birthday boy was not attending, that in fact there was no party in the traditional sense. I had fallen into the trap of a very sad man. He was infamous in the neighborhood for smoking dope in the bird sanctuary, usually a spot and activity reserved for teenagers like myself. In the cabin, he was gregarious and supplied drugs, always a plus, but there was a sweaty desperation to whole affair. Did I think Zach, his son, was coming? Could I get other kids to come? He smiled, while radiating grief and anxiety. I was finally in a situation worthy of a wrenching drama, but I had no clue what part to play.
On Halloween many years later, I accepted a strange woman’s invitation to her apartment. On the app, she provided very specific instructions, the forwardness of which made me excited but also a bit intimidated. After we had sex, she told me that her young husband had died unexpectedly a year into their marriage. She had chosen me for my resemblance to him. It all felt like a scene from a bildungsroman of the 20th century, the horny widow, the uncanny feeling of standing in for a dead man. She wore a fancy satin robe and had a tiny, neatly waxed triangle of pubic hair. There was a sweet way she dismissed me from head duty, like “I came, good job, you can stop now.” I reached out to her once after that night, but did not expect a reply and did not receive one. My job had been to provide what comfort I could and I had performed about as well as could be expected.
Short talk on holograms
There’s a jukebox at the bowling alley; I like to play Chief Keef on it during league, “I Don’t Like” or “Faneto” or maybe “Kobe.” It rankles the ex-cop team, or at least in my mind it does. The Chicago Police Department have no love for Keef, whose initial reputation as a pre-teen phenom was bolstered by a charge of firing a weapon at police officers. Listening to Keef brings me back to the summer of 2012, when Chicago drill was taking over the rap world, when it seemed like Chief Keef would be the brightest in a whole new collection of superstars. That summer I tried desperately to see some of these hometown Chicago rappers in person, and I did catch Lil Durk at the Metro for a hot second, and saw Keef’s one song at Pitchfork 2012 during AraabMuzik’s set. That scene was diverse and there was so much swagger and momentum to it, all these funny, tough and catchy songs coming out in rapid succession, often set to the horror-soundtrack-meets-nursery-rhymes beats of Young Chop. Then, just as quickly, the whole thing unraveled. Keef’s major label debut was deemed a disappointment; Katie Got Bandz got arrested on check fraud; King Louie was shot; Durk and G Herbo moved to Atlanta; Keef moved permanently to California, living in exile from the gang violence and police intimidation of his hometown. Once Keef left, he never came back, at least not in a public way. When they announced he would be performing live via hologram a few years ago, the then mayor supported the police in shutting the show down before it even happened. Keef, one of Chicago’s defining living artists, is in an exile so complete, even his reflected image is banned here.
I saw that same mayor on the El once, heading into the loop. It was mid morning, so the train was fairly empty. I sat close to him, the mayor standing in the train car, reading some sort of report or prepared brief. I sensed him noticing me looking at him, and he gave off the energy of someone who did not want to be bothered. His security probably would have stopped me anyways. This was a couple of days before he resigned, or more specifically, announced he would not be running for reelection. He had helped keep that video of Laquan McDonald getting shot 16 times by the CPD hidden for as long as possible, and the stink of that hasn’t left him since. That video spurred me to protest the city and police. When the crowd I was in reached the 26th street station, there were cops on the roof with cameras, observing and documenting the protestors.
When I was growing up and into the most extreme things I could find, the way some kids are, there were whispers about snuff films, depraved and hand-shared videos of people being tortured, or dying in car crashes, or falling off buildings. These were akin to extreme pornography, a thing that was so grotesque it had to be watched, if at all, in private and with a good dose of shame. Now snuff films are quite ubiquitous, usually in the context of state sponsored violence. I watched the first few, Laquan and Tamir Rice, stuck in a GIF loop of life and death, animation and execution. Now I look away. I still haven’t watched the George Floyd one. It feels cowardly, but I haven’t been able to make myself do it. I search for any DJ Screw on this jukebox, with whom Floyd collaborated in the 90s, but despite being one of those newfangled juke boxes that are connected to the internet, there’s none to play. Time to get back to the lanes, anyway, I’m up and the ex-cops are looking at me in their Hawaiian shirts.
The True Meaning of Demoniacks
by Daniel David Froid
... we were visitors from elsewhere ...
what’s in a face?
by Evelyn Winters
... I went shopping. I needed a purse. A new purse ...